As­sas­sin’s Creed Ori­gins sales save Ubisoft from hos­tile takeover

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The hol­i­day pe­riod is shap­ing up to be a game changer in Ubisoft En­ter­tain­ment’s fight to stay in­de­pen­dent from Vivendi.

The lat­est in­stal­ment of the French game maker’s top-sell­ing fran­chise, As­sas­sin’s Creed Ori­gins, is pick­ing up rave re­views and show­ing strong sales through the fes­tive sea­son, which could fur­ther pro­pel shares that have al­ready al­most dou­bled this year on the back of an ex­cel­lent start since the game’s Oc­to­ber re­lease.

The stock’s rich val­u­a­tion is a bar­rier to any at­tempt by Ubisoft’s top share­holder Vivendi to pur­sue a hos­tile bid for the 73 per cent it does not al­ready own. Ubisoft shares are worth four times more than when the me­dia con­glom­er­ate run by chair­man Vin­cent Bol­lore started to ac­quire the stock in 2015.

“Given the cur­rent sales trend, As­sas­sin’s Creed will stay in the top three for the Christ­mas pe­riod,” said Olivier Gar­cia, head of com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment at French re­tail elec­tron­ics chain Fnac. Sales have stayed ‘very strong’, putting the game third, be­hind soc­cer sim­u­la­tion Fifa 2018 and first-per­son shooter Call of Duty: WWII,” he said.

In the UK, the game ranked fifth in en­ter­tain­ment soft­ware for the week ended De­cem­ber 16, ac­cord­ing to GFK ChartTrack data.

Strong sales have been boosted by glow­ing user re­views. On av­er­age, the game re­ceived an 85 per cent pos­i­tive rat­ing since its launch, based on more than 17,000 re­views on PC on­line game plat­form Steam.

As­sas­sin’s Creed is part of an elite group of fran­chises that have each sold more than 100 mil­lion copies, which in­cludes Grand Theft Auto, Fifa and Su­per Mario Bros. Re­tail­ing at about US$50, the new­est game from the ac­tion-ad­ven­ture block­buster sets the player in an­cient Egypt ex­plor­ing the pyra­mids, un­cov­er­ing tombs con­tain­ing mum­mies and pharaohs. A photo mode lets the player cap­ture shots they can share on so­cial me­dia.

Al­though Ubisoft will not share sales data be­fore Fe­bru­ary, it has hinted that the ex­tra time it spent on the de­sign be­fore re­leas­ing the game has paid off. Shortly af­ter the Oc­to­ber 27 re­lease, chief ex­ec­u­tive

Yves Guille­mot said the game’s sales were trend­ing at twice the pace of its pre­de­ces­sor and chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Alain Mar­tinez said De­cem­ber 7 the game had con­tin­ued its pos­i­tive tra­jec­tory.

Game mak­ers in­clud­ing Ubisoft typ­i­cally rely on the re­lease of one or two games a year and Ubisoft is milk­ing As­sas­sin’s Creed Ori­gins for all it is worth. Ro­bust sales of the game, in­clud­ing dig­i­tal ver­sions played on com­put­ers and higher rev­enue from older, back-cat­a­log Ubisoft games al­lowed the com­pany ear­lier this month to an­nounce it will de­lay some fu­ture ti­tles, while main­tain­ing its profit out­look.

Ubisoft is gen­er­at­ing more re­cur­ring rev­enue from its games as cus­tomers on com­put­ers and con­soles in­creas­ingly buy higher-mar­gin dig­i­tal copies and stick with them by pay­ing for sub­scrip­tions, reg­u­lar up­dates and in-game perks. In As­sas­sin’s Creed Ori­gins, play­ers can com­plete quests or choose to pay real money to equip their char­ac­ter with spe­cial gear, in­clud­ing a gla­di­a­tor-themed look. In the first half of the 2018 fis­cal year, Ubisoft’s back-cat­a­log sales grew 48 per cent and the com­pany’s dig­i­tal rev­enue in­creased 69 per cent.

The trac­tion of As­sas­sin’s Creed Ori­gins with dig­i­tal sales is part of a grow­ing trend that’s pay­ing off for gamemak­ers, Matthew Kan­ter­man, an an­a­lyst at Bloomberg In­tel­li­gence said.

“This is an in­dus­try shift for con­sole games that still has a long way to go, but as it gains pace, as it seems to have done lately, it also is a tail­wind for prof­itabil­ity,” Mr Kan­ter­man said. The re­sult­ing in­crease in val­u­a­tion “may act as a de­ter­rent to Vivendi launch­ing a ten­der of­fer.”

Since the video game’s makeover in Oc­to­ber, As­sasin’s Creed fran­chise sales have dou­bled Getty

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